There are few better strategies when you’re feeling flummoxed than marshalling your thoughts via a good list. List-making as a strategy is what I’ve turned to this week after being inspired by artist Susan Hiller’s vast “Dedicated to the Unknown Artists” (1972-present) project.
The task she set herself was to collect multiple examples of a genre of postcard. The results she found, and continues to find, were logged. Details such as location, format, colour and the card’s written message were recorded, and the data was then displayed on a grid.
All of which sounds pretty dry; but this sober process forms a brilliant foil or backdrop for the fabulous antique postcards she’s collected. The “Rough Sea Set” shows giant waves cresting over cliffs and beaches, bombarding esplanades, grand hotels and piers and swamping heavily-clad early-20th-century daytrippers in clouds of spume. Some images are thrilling, some lovely, some ridiculous, some a mix of all three, and some are faked – enhanced with colour tinting and painted-on tsunamis.
The cards and their banal, odd or touching messages emerge as uncanny, wonderful. They are traditional landscape paintings in miniature: tiny echoes of the sublime.
I’m interested in the way that Hiller has taken something as mundane as a picture postcard and through systematically exposing the information contained on the cards and through arranging the images in relation to other images, has suggested other layers of meaning.
It’s a strategy I’d like to use as part of the Navigating Cyril Project.
So I’m beginning to record each of the 80+ postcards I’ve so far collected and create a set of ‘Navigation’ tables or lists (see below), in the hope that the details recorded, and the relationships between those details, will be – perhaps – revelatory.